The Proposed New Seventh-day Adventist Statement on Abortion: Twelve Brief Comments

The three hundred or so global delegates to the Executive Committee of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists will this week consider a statement on abortion which could supplement or replace the guidelines which it approved in 1992. Here are twelve brief comments from me. Please click here for the 1992 statement and here for the current, 2019, proposal.

Process

1. The General Conference asked its Biblical Research Institute to prepare a statement on the biblical view of human life with reference to the issue of abortion. The proposed statement is largely the result of its work.

2. A Committee of about two dozen specialists from around the world, three of whom were reportedly women, considered the BRI's work and other things when formulating this proposal. The result appears to be the BRI's statement into which, at strategic points, lines from the 1992 statement and other sources have been inserted.

3. General Conference declarations are either 1) Fundamental Beliefs, 2) Guidelines, or 3) Statements. I do not know which of these the present proposal is meant to be.

Commendations

4. The way that this proposal establishes that the Bible is pro-life is beautiful. I am using the word "beautiful" as mathematicians use the word "elegant" when describing formula which are surprisingly simple but profoundly significant.

5. It adroitly navigates through contending interpretations of controversial passages. For example, it rightly declares that Exodus 21:22-25 shows that biblical people valued the fetus; however, it stays away from the debates about how much they valued the fetus in comparison with how much they valued the pregnant woman.

6. It includes many biblical resources which I have never seen utilized in other discussions of abortion. These include the New Testament's references to living an "abundant life" and many others. The result of linking these biblical references to the consideration of abortion is illuminating. I would say brilliant.

Contradictions

7. The proposal wavers between saying that whether an abortion will be performed is up to those who are closest to the situation in every case, on the one hand, or saying that this is so only in especially problematic and perplexing cases, on the other. Either way, the proposal makes all the easy decisions and leaves all the hard ones to those who are most involved without any help.

8. On the one hand, it underlines the importance of what the New Testament says about the "abundant life." On the other hand, it does not say that things such as rape, incest, a pregnant woman's serious but not fatal medical problems, or even her dangerous age can make an "abundant life" a complete and permanent impossibility for her. It doesn't relate the idea of an "abundant life" and similar biblical themes to the fetus and to the pregnant woman in a balanced way.

9. It makes exceptions to the Bible's pro-life orientation for especially difficult cases without biblically justifying them. Either this statement is exclusively biblical or it isn't. If it is, it should make no exceptions, not even one, without explaining how the Bible warrants them.

Observations

10. This proposal strikes me as a combination of different materials which are at odds with each other and need further integration.

11. It demonstrates why prima scriptura is better than sola scriptura. Statements like this proposal should be truly biblical but not exclusively so. They should also include insights from the relevant sciences and humanities as well as from common sense. The BRI handled the biblical materials but not the other ones which are also necessary and rightly so.

12. "Neither accept nor reject anything just because the General Conference says it. Examine everything it says very carefully. Keep what survives this scrutiny and shelve the rest. Don't make life difficult for others either way." (I Thessalonians 5:20-22, DRLV)

David Larson is Professor of Religion at Loma Linda University Health.

Image from rawpixel.com

Further Reading:

The Current Seventh-day Adventist Abortion Guidelines,” October 11, 2019

Proposed Seventh-day Adventist Statement on Abortion,” October 11, 2019

A Christian Woman’s Perspective on Abortion,” by Stella Oliveras, October 11, 2019

Primer on U.S. Abortion Law: Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Challenge to Louisiana Abortion Restriction,” by Michael Peabody, October 7, 2019

Geoscience Research Institute Calls for a ‘Biblically Sound Statement on Abortion,’” by the Geoscience Research Institute, October 4, 2019

An Open Letter Concerning the Adventist Church’s Abortion Guidelines,” by Mark B. Johnson, October 4, 2019

A Clinical Ethicist’s Perspective on Creating a New Abortion Statement,” by Mark F. Carr, October 2, 2019

"Abortion Rates and Ratios Continue Dropping in the United States" by David Larson, September 27, 2019

Our Abortion Guidelines Are Too Good to Replace” by David Larson, September 16, 2019

Abortion Law: Adventist Leaders Active Behind the Scenes” by Kent Kingston, September 18, 2019

Amidst Growing Criticism Adventist Church is Revisiting Abortion Position” by Michael Peabody, September 23, 2019

Adventist Church Works to Clarify Its Stance on Abortion,” Adventist News Network, August 30, 2019

The Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Official Guidelines on Abortion, approved and voted by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Executive Committee at the Annual Council session in Silver Spring, Maryland, October 12, 1992.

This article originally appeared in the current Spectrum print journal, volume 47, issue 3, which includes several articles on abortion.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9939
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What I find amusing is that commentators opposed to abortion express derision at the notion that for consistency’s sake they should also be opposed to birth control and the killing of sperm. They don’t realize that for millennia Christians have been opposed to birth control and the killing of sperm. The commentators are unaware that the same texts cited in the proposed Statement have been marshaled in opposition to birth control and the killing of sperm. The commentators are also unaware that giants of the Christian faith, such as Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and John Wesley, were opposed to birth control and the killing of sperm. This statement by Augustine is so typical of historical Christian thinking:

“I am supposing, then, although you are not lying [with your wife] for the sake of procreating offspring, you are not for the sake of lust obstructing their procreation by an evil prayer or an evil deed. Those who do this, although they are called husband and wife, are not; nor do they retain any reality of marriage, but with a respectable name cover a shame. Sometimes this lustful cruelty, or cruel lust, comes to this, that they even procure poisons of sterility [oral contraceptives]” (Marriage and Concupiscence 1:15:17).

Consequently, we are forced to conclude that the present agitation in the Seventh-day Adventist Church about abortion is based on feelings. Commentators feel that abortion is a violation of the Sixth Commandment, but they also feel that birth control and the killing of sperm is not a violation of the Sixth Commandment. And they do not realize that their feelings are subjective, ungrounded in neutral principles, and contradictory. Furthermore, these commentators are unaware of history, which should alert them to pitfalls that should be avoided in drafting a proposed Statement on abortion.

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They moved the abortion vote from tomorrow up to today 10/14

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Political ploy? Can’t think of another reason… Given the video, seems no other feasible option.

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Playin’ the latest shell game apparently.

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The consensus of this group should be sound and credible especially given the fact that 3 of 24 members are “reportedly women.”

Astounding! I am in shock.

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Will anyone ever know what this means?

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OK Mel, give us a shot. What could “other things” be?

LOL!

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From the Robert’s Rules of Order
“… adopting an agenda ensures that participants will accomplish the tasks on the agenda without getting sidetracked by other issues. A majority vote adopts an agenda. After it’s adopted, only a two-thirds vote or general consent may change the agenda.”

Most organizations adhere to Robert’s Rules of Order, including publishing and securing prior consent to the Agenda. Assuming GC bylaws cite these Rules or similar, the Chairperson (Wilson?) should not be able to change the order of the Agenda upon a personal whim.

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Phil, you will never get the Fulcrum 7 ministry to admit that abortion is not murder.
They demand it be defined as such, so they can dictate just who can have one or not.
I have told them many times the church will never define abortion as murder.
Murder is not negotiable under any circumstance.

But abortion is negotiable under some circumstance and this they will never admit. It would destroy their whole theory.

According to their false doctrine, a woman who takes a “morning after pill” just murdered a human being. This is how absurd their doctrine is.

And the church will never define abortion as murder. They may make some qualification to the present policy, but will never patronize the F7 crowd.

The seriousness of abortion is not minimized just because it is not murder.
It is a serious issue that must be dealt with by a different format.

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Yea, but rules are for other people, people who aren’t appointed by God to lead the church. Right?

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I am laboring with them. Two days ago I requested permission from fulcrum7 to post some comments and my request was granted. So far I have been compared to Balaam’s ass but nothing worse than that. These are simple people, but I think they are well-intentioned.

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[quote=“phil, post:12, topic:19176”]
“I think they are well-intentioned.”

Yes, they are. But so are a lot of deluded people in this world.

And by the way, I am not sure David Read accepts the idea that abortion is ipso facto, murder. Maybe he does. But he made some comments a few weeks ago that indicate that may not be his position.

Of course he rejects the vast abuse of abortion as the norm for birth control as most rational people do. And the abortion clinics that have no standard for when and if an abortion might be an alternate decision based on varied circumstances.

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I don’t know either!

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I watched the abortion discussion this afternoon and wrote a comment on fulcrum7 setting forth ten observations, but apparently the comment was deleted. So there is only so much that I can do. I will post my observations on this site once the news story about today’s events is posted.

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I didn’t mean to be coy about this. I noticed some things in the proposal which struck me as paraphrases of things in the 1992 Guidelines. There were other things which I didn’t recall seeing before. So, I attributed them to “other things” which were presented to the Committee for its consideration.

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Clear, obvious, undeniable manipulation. They knew that doing it during the last hour of the day would make it easier to manipulate the process. All besides giving the delegates less time to read the document and think properly about it.

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I wonder what are the specialties of those “specialists”…
Does anyone know?

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Didn’t read Mel’s input yet, but I believe that “other things” must refer to the control that the GC exerts on those people, manipulating the process.
Remember Edgar, the psychiatrist that used to participate here? He rightly said “Ted Taliban” every time he referred to the honorable GC President.

“The path to hell is paved with… good intentions!”

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The most dangerous parts of the new proposal is the removal of this statement.

“Christians acknowledge as first and foremost their accountability to God. They seek balance between the exercise of individual liberty and their accountability to the faith community and the larger society and its laws. They make their choices according to scripture and the laws of God rather than the norms of society. Therefore, any attempts to coerce women either to remain pregnant or to terminate pregnancy should be rejected as infringements of personal freedom.”

I will never support these changes nor will I even acknowledge these changes should they happen. Our current statement on abortion is one of the best and most balanced of any religious denomination out there. And yet here we are again being forced to compromise carefully thought out BIBLICAL principaled positions to ease the deluded conscious of those who dont care one wit about freedom of conscious. They only care about forcing others to their point of view.

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